University's murder mystery leaves amateur detectives wanting more...

23 Oct 2023
People hunting for clues in Scenes of Crime House

The University of Winchester became a crime scene when the departments of Policing, Criminology, Forensics and Law combined to create a murder mystery. 

'The Winchester Whodunnit', part of Winchester Cathedral’s recent ‘Justice for All?’ week, was a sell- out success with 60 members of the public keen to become detectives for the morning.

The Body on the Podium was specially written for the occasion by Natacha Harding, Head of Department of Policing, Criminology and Forensics, who was also on hand to greet the amateur sleuths.

Her bloody murder mystery centred on the demise of Dean of the Faculty of Law, Crime and Justice, Bill Davies (played by a forensic mannequin). 

People in white coats working in a lab

His corpse was found in The Stripe auditorium and the action then moved swiftly onto Bill's office (the University’s Crime Scene House) which was searched for clues. After that the investigators proceeded to the forensics lab (above) to look at fingerprints and DNA evidence before heading to the police incident room.  

The final destination was the court room where serving magistrate and law lecturer Sarah Dewar sat to pass sentence.

Every good whodunnit has a twist and this was no different  ­- the murderer turned out to be none other than Natacha (the author of her own downfall) whose story ended with a 27-year sentence. 

Line up of women dressed as courtroom lawyers

Natacha was full of praise for all the academics and students who took part, as well as the investigative powers of the members of the public: “I came up with the story but the whole team really brought it to life with their expertise. It was a very positive experience.”

Among the expert actors were retired detective Darren Rawlings, now a lecturer in policing, who acted as the Senior Investigating Officer, and lecturer in Forensic Science Dr Julio Ponce, playing the lab chief, who worked for 13 years as crime scene specialist in his native Brazil.

“The best feedback we got was that this was better than TV because it involved real-life practitioners. A lot of people said they’d come back and do it again,” said Natacha.

Bill Davies, Dean of the Faculty of law, Crime and Justice, said: “This event demonstrated the very high level of knowledge, enthusiasm and teamwork we have in the faculty. I’m delighted that everyone who took part had such good fun investigating my ‘death’ and that the University was able to support Winchester Cathedral’s justice week.”

Judging the event a success, Natacha said that it will definitely be repeated but with a new storyline.

Photos by RCM Agency

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